The 23-year-old VIS World Champion threw down a near perfect 97.00 second run to win his qualification heat and record the highest score of the day at the opening World Cup of the season at Copper Mountain.
Competing in the opening qualification heat, James scored 92.33 on his first run before going even bigger next time down.
Japan’s Raibu Katayama also impressed with a 96.00 in his opening run of the second qualification heat while USA star Shaun White scored a 94.33 to set up a tantalising final on Sunday morning.
Fellow Aussie and Sochi 2014 Olympian Kent Callister scored 64.00 and 63.33 to finish 11th in James’ heat.
In the women’s event Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic silver medallist Emily Arthur put down two solid runs of 58.66 and 60.00 to finish ninth in her qualification heat.
The USA’s Maddie Mastro and Chloe Kim dominated proceedings with best scores of 91.33 and 89.00 as they easily progressed through to the eight-strong final.
With qualification out of the way James will now look to perform when it counts – in the ten-man final.
That goes down from 5am on Sunday morning (AEDT).
Live scoring will be available here>>> and you can watch the event live on Eurosport – Channel 511 on Foxtel.
IMAGE: the Copper Mountain Halfpipe © FIS